30 May 2023

Why did Prince George Duke of Kent die in a shocking plane crash in 1942?

The four sons of King George, by Bertram Park
National Portrait Gallery, 1931

Prince George (1902-42) was born at York Cottage in Norfolk when his grandfather Edward VII was king. George was the fourth son of George V and Mary of Teck, his sib­lings being Edward (b1894, Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII), Albert (b1895, later Geor­ge VI), Henry (b1900, later Duke Glouc­ester) and his sis­ter Mary (b1897, later Countess Hare­wood). At birth, he was 5th in succession to the British throne.

After private tutor­ing and prep school, George (13) was sent to naval college preparing for a Royal Navy career, like his brothers. He loathed the naval life, but he remained in the Royal Navy until 1929. He then held Foreign Office posts, then the Home Off­ice.

George was especially close to his brother Edward, the stylish Prince of Wales. From 1929 they lived together in York House in St James’ Pal­ace, sharing an interest in cloth­es, soc­ial­ising and sex. Ironically Edward was given the task of limiting George’s drugs.

Prince Edward and Prince George on U.S Tour, top hats and tails
Fox 1927

The handsome princely bachel­ors were style arbiters and magazine fav­ourites on both sides of the Atlantic. Given his liking for the nightlife and the arts, George’s prefer­ence for a double-breasted style led it to be­ing called The Kent. George played the piano, spoke French and Italian, liked fast cars and pre­ferred sailing to shooting.

Just before marriage, George was made Duke of Kent and Earl of St And­rews. He happ­ily married his second cousin, Princess Marina of Greece and Den­mark in Nov 1934 at West­minster Abbey then a Greek Orthodox ser­vice at Buck­ingham Palace. NB Marina was Prince Philip’s first cousin.

Christopher Warwick wrote George and Marina: The Duke and Duchess of Kent (1988) . The Duke and Duchess of Kent were very popular with the British public, and their home in Belgrave Sq dazzled London society pre-WW2. George was the most cultivated royal, entertaining the best stars from the arts and theat­re.

Duke and Duchess of Kent, by Christopher Warwick

George was said to have a very active sexual life. He fancied an American soc­ialite, producing a son. He liked the bisexual son of Argentina’s ambas­s­ador to London, an African-American cabaret star, an English musical star, a banking heiress and a social­ite Duch­ess. Author Bar­bara Cart­land said that he fat­hered her daught­er Raine McCorq­uodale, Princess Diana’s stepmother.

And George had a 19-year affair with actor-composer Noël Coward. British Security Services reported the two men were parading the London streets dressed as women, but love letters between them were stolen fr­om Co­ward’s house in 1942. George was also close to Prin­ce of Prussia Louis Ferdinand and art historian-Soviet spy An­thony Blunt.

When WW2 started, Rear Admiral Prince George re-joined the Navy, un­hap­pily serv­ing in Admiralty Int­elligence. He had once been a keen pilot so in Apr 1940 he moved to the RAF, working in their Training Command

In Aug 1942, an air­craft from 228 Squadron left RAF Oban, the crew ass­igned to transport the Prince to RAF Reykjavik Iceland for a regular visit to RAF personnel. Prin­ce George and his crew were killed when the flying boat veered off course, crashing into a mountain in Nth Scotland Rescue crews arrived but only the rear gun­n­er, Flight Sarg Andrew Jack, survived because he worked in the aircraft’s tail end that sep­ar­ated. He was hos­pitalised with severe burns for weeks, deeply traum­atised.

The police and Special Branch sealed the area and warned the press off. A Board of Inquiry was convened but Jack’s refusal to speak was probl­em­atic. The Inv­estigation quickly conc­l­uded that Flight Lieut Frank Goyen’s pilot error was to blame. Why are the official papers still emb­argoed?

Consp­iracy theories quickly flourished. Why did the plane crash, des­pite sunny weat­her? Why did the pilot descend to c650’ when he was flying over highland? Was there a problem on the plane or eng­ine? Why did the pil­ot man­oeuvre the plane over land when it was a boat bom­ber that was sup­posed to fly over the water? They noted that Goyen’s flight plan, filed before take-off, totally dis­app­eared! Capt Goyen was an expert flying boat pilot, as was the co-pilot. Who was at the controls? These ques­tions were either not investigated or were not shared publicly.

Andrew Jack's niece later claimed Jack told them Prince George had been at the plane’s controls; that Jack dragged him from the pilot's seat post-crash; and that there was another unidentified person aboard the plane. Princess Marina certainly con­tacted Andrew Jack a few times, but their conver­sations were never divulged.

The Prince had a wrist-bag holding 100 Swedish kroner notes. Why did he bring notes invalid in his country of destin­ation? Was George's death caused because he was heading on a special war-time mission in Iceland, and if so, what was his mission? Did Geor­ge share the pro-Nazi sentiments of his brother, Duke of Windsor? Was he really friendly with Joachim von Ribbentrop, German ambass­ador in London? George was of­ten with the Duke of Hamilton, so could he have been the real target of Nazi deputy Fuhrer Rudolf Hess on a flight to Scotl­and? Could Brit­ish intelligence, on Win­ston Chur­chill’s orders, have caused the crash?

Prince George was buried in the Royal Burial Ground in the Frogmore Estate, alongside Queen Victoria. He left his widow Marina with 3 small children: Edward b1935, the current Duke of Kent; Princess Alexand­ra b1936, who married busi­nessman Angus Ogilvy; and Prince Michael b1942, still working royals.

The Rake
Princess Marina, only 35, continued to per­form official royal duties, including attending the wedding of cous­in Prince Philip to her husb­and's niece Princess El­iz­abeth, in 1947. Her funeral was in 1968, att­end­ed by the royals, but the royal family have NEVER spoken publicly about the Duke.

P.M Winston Churchill honoured the prince in the House of Commons. So a blitz of media co­verage was expected, but the Govern­ment used its war­time powers to block enquiries. Was the plane crash an accident, suicide, or pun­ishment for Nazi-support, bi-sexuality, promiscuity or drug usage?

See British documentary, The Queen’s Lost Uncle, 2003.

Crashed plane on Eagle's Rock mountain in Caithness, Nth Scotland
Daily Express, published in 2017


roentare said...

Prince George at least had a colourful life.

Rachel Phillips said...

What a colourful life he led. Almost makes Meghan and Harry pale into insignificance.

Joe said...

Earlier on at the Abdication, the royals thought that Prince George might have succeed the throne, instead of brother Edward Prince of Wales. That was because Princess Marina already had a son, a male line of succession which Bertie would never have. And because his brother was rooting around with an American divorcee, Wallis Simpson.

Helen, what might have happened to the royal dynasty, had Prince George become the next king after the abdication? He would certainly not been in a small plane in 1942

My name is Erika. said...

This is interesting as I read about this Prince in a different book. The book was about Edward- the abdicated king, but it's interesting to read how his brother had such an alcohol and drug addiction. Your post really adds to what I've read. Happy week ahead. hugs-Erika

Hels said...


he wasn't the first male royal to lead a colourful life. I won't even discuss the
early modern kings so let's start with Edward VII, Queen Victoria's son. He was probably the most promiscuous - he apparently had 4 different sex partners a week for his entire adult life. When Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh visited New Guinea in 1956, the army men there received a letter suggesting they protect their wives inside the family home.

Hels said...


Meghan and Harry really do pale into insignificance.

Mind you, that doesn't stop every generation of commoners looking at the royals for gossip. Sometimes the evidence is readily available eg photos of a royal with someone else's spouse or is caught smoking dope with a teenager. But sometimes the gossip seems to be based on the flimsiest of evidence.

Hels said...


I love What If Questions in history. Edward VIII was a totally inappropriate choice for king because of his pro-Nazi views, as well as living with a married woman. But I would have thought he would be followed by his next brother down (Prince Albert), almost automatically.

The Duke of Kent would certainly have been saved from the plane crash, had he become King, but perhaps it would have been an unhappy reign.

Andrew said...

I've never heard of him, so I suppose it was a successful cover up. Perhaps he was the last royal to get away with behaviour that went against the moral grains of society.

Hels said...


Royal usage of drugs and alcohol is usually secret and hard to prove. The Archbishop of Canterbury wrote long hidden letters accusing King Edward VIII of alcoholism. The written accusations might have been nonsense, based on the Archbishop's anger over the King living with a married woman.

With the Duke of Kent, I am not sure if there is any written evidence at all. He was often seen at parties having a great time, but the press were banned from reporting any behaviour that might portray the royal family negatively. And the royals themselves would not normally discuss the Duke's indulgence in cocaine and morphine.

Perhaps the plane crash was intentional, after all.

Parnassus said...

Hello Hels, My opinion of this George depends mostly on his views and connections with Nazi Germany. Overall, he seems a semi-twin to Edward, pretty much of a lout, and if England really did have to dispose of him, not much of a loss. I am not against a colorful life, and very accomplished people often have such, but after a certain point (I recall your earlier article about Edward and Wallis), it all becomes too sordid.

Hels said...


people in the Duke's own generation knew him very well, and all of London turned up to his funeral in tears. But for decades after that, no monument was built in his memory and no newspapers mentioned his name. I learned a lot of British history, including royal history, and didn't know _anything_ about the secret plane crash.

If the Duke led the life of a playboy today, probably he would have been noticed and called out. Today there is nowhere on earth to hide, away from cameras, computers and drones.

Hels said...


any normal person would believe that the Duke of Kent's connections with Nazi Germany, if true, were the worst thing he did. Not that George would have been the only royal or politician who wanted peace with Germany... at any cost.

The book Double Standards (2001) wrote the Duke of Kent met Rudolf Hess and Alfred Rosenberg during the 1930s. A report written by Rosenberg for Adolf Hitler in Oct 1935 stated that the Duke of Kent was working quietly "in strengthening the pressure for a reconstruction of the Cabinet and mainly towards beginning the movement in the direction of Germany." And in Feb 1937 a Foreign Office document showed the Duke of Kent had developed a close relationship with Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Ambassador in London.

jabblog said...

Duty was never top of Edward VIII's agenda and it seems that his brother was similarly self-indulgent. Some have privilege and rise above it, others seek only to aggrandise themselves.

Hels said...


it seems as if the princes had many duties they had to carry out, but after that, they could indulge themselves with whatever made them happy. And if those pleasures were illegal, immoral or dangerous, the princes were above the law in any case.

Imperial War Museum said...

An autographed half-length formal portrait of the Duke of Kent in Royal Air Force uniform (1941) can be viewed at the Imperial War Museum in London.

Hels said...

Many thanks. Since there is no shrine, monument or museum to the Duke of Kent's memory, do you think the Imperial War Museums collection of photos and paintings makes up for the absence? I hope so.

It is telling that the current Duke of Kent has been a working member of the Royal Family since he retired from the Army in 1976. As the son of Prince George Duke of Kent, being President of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission helps him encourage our grandchildren to remember the sacrifices made in war.

Viagens pelo Rio de Janeiro e Brasil. said...

Boa tarde de quarta-feira. Obrigado pela visita e carinho.
Excelente matéria e brilhante aula de história. Matéria cheia de informações.
Luiz Gomes

Hels said...


if you are interested in this amazing topic, I recommend you read George and Marina: Duke and Duchess of Kent by Christopher Warwick.

mem said...

Lets face it the Royal family is and has been a pretty average family in many ways . Some members are a pain and others earn their keep and seems to have a great emotional intelligence and can read the room better than those who seem to have a sense of entitlement or perhaps a transactional view which says "if you want to stare at me and know all about me through the endless press intrusion I have to suffer, then the cost is that I can do what I like " . We get upset at this and so we have the H and M saga unfolding . Personally I find the whole concept of birth dictating your entire life trajectory is crazy and yet it seems to work as we have had a stable democratic system in most of the commonwealth countries. We are a weird bunch !!!

Hels said...


Agreed. Since the royal family is just the same as every other family, and doesn't have better behaviour than anyone else, citing moral values as a reason for getting rid of a wife or killing a duke doesn't make remote sense. In every generation since the Anglo Saxons, the monarch has had many mistresses, has slept with men, took drugs, consorted with the enemy in war time, gaoled their sister for life etc etc